Uncle arrested in connection with death of missing 7 year old

By WEEK Producer

September 10, 2013 Updated Sep 11, 2013 at 8:06 PM CDT

WATSON, Ill. -- Police have arrested Justin D. DeRyke, 22, in connection with the death of Willow Long, 7, of Watson.

Willow's body was found Monday night by four volunteers who were searching an area in Effingham County.

Willow Long was reported missing by her mother early Sunday morning. A massive search had been underway since then.

Tuesday morning, police confirmed a child's body had been located by four volunteers around 7:30 p.m. Monday.

An autopsy conducted Tuesday confirmed that the body was that of Willow Long. The child's cause of death is still unknown but the Effingham County Coroner said all indications are that the death is a homicide.

Justin DeRyke, Willow's maternal uncle, was arrested early Tuesday morning. He remains in police custody and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

The Effingham County States Attorney said he will file First Degree Murder charges against DeRyke. Additional charges may be filed.

Illinois State Police and the Effingham County Sheriff's Department continue to investigate.

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